Being sheriff is not easy. Any Western will tell ya’ that.
For starters, he’s always the first one run out of town or the first one shot when the outlaws storm their way in. Sure, the townspeople look up to you, but the second some wily varmint gives them the evil eye, they’ll turn their back on you and betray ya’ just as soon as say howdy. And it takes years before you can come crawling back into town, a man with no name who no one remembers and paint their town red.
Now, parenting ain’t that bad, but it can be close. After all, no one’s going to stumble upon your abode and rename it Hell. C’mon, this isn’t Rhode Island.
Despite all the pleasures parenting can bring – especially when you lock in and really connect and bond with your kids – there comes a time (some days, it’s every fifteen minutes), when you have to slap your Dad Hat on. And it’s never easy. And it’s never fun.
As most of you know, Andi and I are parents to two wonderful children – Colin (4) and Aria (2). They are, without question, our shining stars. The two of them are so smart, so funny, so energetic and so eager to please their parents on a daily basis.
They have also conspired to rid my head of every last hair. And they delight in it. In fact, Aria will often approach me with an open barrette, ready to apply it to my phantom locks when she’ll stop in mid-stream, a sly smile pursing her lips and respond, “Oops, sorry. You don’t have hair.” My kingdom for a Scrunchie!!!
Now, with the two-year gulf in ages, it’s Colin who has provided Andi and I with the lion’s share of our disciplinarian attention. You know the escalating scale of ages to troubles? Terrible twos are followed by Tormenting Threes which apparently segue way to the F’d Up Fours. I can only hold up hope that the Teen Years repel such alliterative adjectives.
Basically, they’re your normal, every day average children. One moment you’re beaming with pride. The next you’re slamming the door on a snooping reporter.
Colin’s trespasses are less of the sneaky kind and more of the ‘trying to be much older than he is’ variety. He wants to do every thing himself. I mean EVERYTHING!!! And while it’s a great pleasure to see him dressing himself, brushing his teeth, setting the table for he and Aria, getting each of them His and Hers Gogurts and Drinkables, rinsing his dishes and placing them in the dish washer, washing the car, doing my taxes, aerating the back lawn, etc… it can be pure panic when I catch him with a stool, a bag of microwave popcorn and a handful of AAs headed for the microwave (which rests 5 feet off the ground). What are the batteries for, you ask? To power it, of course!!! And to napalm the kitchen. So I need to repeat the mantra. If you need something, you ask Mommy or Daddy.
And that’s where the timeouts come in.
Sure, they’re also employed for those times when he and Aria have shed the best friend veneer and have entered Thunderdome. Although she’s only two, she’s a battler. Or so I have come to discover.
See, with Aria rapidly approaching her trey, we have instituted the timeout punishment with her, now that she is old enough to understand why she is being giving a breather. As Colin has learned, some times a little peace and quiet in the hallway corner will do wonders to exorcise whatever demon is plaguing him at the moment. They get one minute for each year of their life. So Colin’s timeouts run four minutes. Aria’s last two.
With Colin, these are old hat and often times he’ll give himself the penalty when he knows he has gone too far. Of course, you have to step in when he wanders by Aria, wrestles a toy from her tiny little mitts and then casually announces “Hold my calls for the next four minutes.” Still, he gets it and although he’s had his fair share of them, he still doesn’t like it – the shame of the punishment – and often he is contrite and apologetic after time has elapsed. And calm. He’s had time to reflect.
With Aria, it’s a whole new world. Til’ now we haven’t employed the timeout for two reasons.
One – she wasn’t old enough to understand. And Two – she really didn’t engage in many transgressions that warranted the punishment. Simply put, she’d been a complete delight. Our little princess.
Now we gotta’ deal with her thuggish ways.
Over the past weekend, I encountered my sweet little girl laying the smackdown on her unsuspecting big brother’s noggin.
At one point on Saturday afternoon, as Andi ran some errands and I had the children to myself, I left the playroom for a moment to fetch some water (not a pail.) I wasn’t gone more than 5 seconds before the cry came out. My knee-jerk reaction was that sibling rivalry had entered the room and Colin had done something to his baby sister to get her upset. But upon analyzing the pitch and timbre of the sound waves crashing upon my shores, I realized quickly that the tables had turned. It was Colin who was crying out for Help.
Within seconds, he came around the corner saying Aria had hit him in the head with her lunch box. Not having witnessed the event, I went in and spoke to both of them and instructed them that hitting things is not appropriate. Colin calmed down and the three of us resumed our game of ‘Whack a Mole’.
A few minutes later, the phone rang. I dashed off to liberate the cordless, when once again his cry crested the air. As I ran into the playroom, I caught Aria swinging a miniature Elmo lunchbox through the air and caught it make contact with Colin’s cabeza. Now, this is a two-year old girl and the blow was hardly crushing. In fact, it was more like a tap and his cry was sarcastic in nature – as his face beamed with a big, bright smile. He thought it was funny and he was hardly hurt. But, the sheriff needed to restate the rules and one major directive is we don’t hit or harm other people. So, with the evidence seized by my eyes, I grabbed Aria’s little hand and led her off for her first time out. (Truth be told, Andi has instituted a few for her during the work week but this was the first time that I had to discipline Daddy’s Little Girl.) I told her expressly why she was in a time out and that she was to remain there until the minutes had elapsed.
The time went by and I returned to Aria. I asked her point blank:
Me: Do you know why you had a timeout?
Aria: Because Colin hit my lunch box with his head.
And that’s the hardest thing about being sheriff. Trying to keep that stoic facade and not breaking out into laughter. No one wants to be Jimmy Fallon.
I thought I had caught myself, but she must have caught some glimpse of the mirth rippling beneath the surface. I was quickly admonished.
Aria: It’s not funny, Daddy.
She was right. It was not funny.
And with that I retreated for my own 35-minute siesta.